Business has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels for Hawaiian Airlines, even with no news for when international travel can resume.
During a livestreamed interview Monday, Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram said the number of people traveling to Hawaii is returning to normal and has, in some cases, even surpassed pre-pandemic rates.
“We’re not fully recovered yet. We really need the international part of the business to come back,” Ingram said. “If you think about our business before the pandemic, we had about 55% of our revenue came from North America. That part of our business has substantially recovered at this point. In the month of June, we’re actually flying about 12 or 13% more capacity to North America destinations than we did in June 2019.”
Ingram said the demographic profile of visitors is returning to something similar to 2019, as well. When travel reopened in October 2020, travelers skewed younger, because COVID-19 puts older people at higher risk of severe or fatal illness. As the pandemic is brought more under control, however, more older people are traveling again, Ingram said.
Meanwhile, neighbor island travel, which accounts for about 20% of Hawaiian Airlines’ business, is at about 70% of pre-pandemic levels, Ingram said, although he added that he expects more travel between the islands soon, after restrictions on interstate travel were removed June 15.
But, Ingram said, international travel — which accounts for a full 25% of the airline’s business — is still practically at zero.
“(Internationally), we’re still running in the low-single-digit percentage of the passengers we carried before the pandemic,” Ingram said. “And, unfortunately for us, there’s really not much we can do in Hawaii to bring that back. It really is more so a function of vaccinations in Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand catching up to the progress we’ve had in the United States.”
Ingram said he hopes some international travel might return by the end of the year, but has no concrete estimate for any destination — with the exception of Tahiti, where Hawaiian Airlines will resume weekend service on Aug. 7.
Ingram guessed that South Korea and Japan likely will be the first major foreign destinations to reopen travel, with Australia and New Zealand to follow.
Until international travel resumes, Ingram said Hawaiian Airlines won’t be fully financially stable. He said the airline is only barely breaking even financially, although he added that is infinitely preferable to last year, when the business was losing millions of dollars each day.
Meanwhile, data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority indicates that statewide hotel revenues are still lagging behind 2019 levels, but are vastly improved from last year.
In May, statewide hotel room revenues were down by 15.5% from May 2019, but were up 1,818.3% from May 2020.
And even though Big Island hotel occupancy rates were still down by 9% from 2019 in May, revenue per available room was actually 13.3% better than it was in May 2019.